Partners on the Health Care Team: Librarians Collaborating with Nurses

Guest post by Annie “Nicky” Nickum, BSN, MLIS, AHIP, and Rebecca Raszewski, MS, AHIP, faculty and nursing liaison librarians at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Occasionally we focus on the intersection between libraries and special clinical practices. Librarians are important partners for nurses who seek to improve their practice within their workplace and continue to be indispensable as nurses start their professional and academic careers.

There are many ways librarians contribute to nursing education with the ability to provide expertise on evidence-based research and research strategies for clinical questions. Librarians collaborate with nursing faculty by conducting literature reviews, collaborating on manuscripts, and teaching students. Our patrons range from students just getting started in nursing to faculty and practice leaders within the field, all having access to our library’s resources. We teach them how to search the literature for projects contributing towards completion of their degree whether it be Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or PhD.

The support and partnerships librarians provide to nurses is nuanced and varied. It is dependent on the type of relationship the library has with the given hospital and the nature of their clinical query. At the University of Illinois Chicago, we have a teaching hospital.  Within hospital settings, librarians may also be involved in educational initiatives within nurse residency programs for new nurses or specific programs for nurses who want to conduct evidence-based practice or research. This goes hand in hand with preceptor support for nurses mentoring students. Librarians may provide orientations and collaborate with residency directors and preceptors to develop quality improvement projects.

Hospitals that are pursuing or have Magnet status (the highest credential for a nursing facility within the United States) will usually have a shared governance model in place where nurses of all educational levels advocate for nursing’s role in patient care. Nurses are involved with reviewing updated hospital guidelines and protocols, providing an opportunity to make sure nursing practice is reflected.

Librarians may be members of nursing- and hospital-wide councils — supporting quality improvement initiatives conducted by nurses or other health care professionals by providing the latest evidence. Examples of literature searches that have been conducted at our institution include:

  • Interprofessional patient rounds,
  • Delivery of care in labor and delivery for obese pregnant women, and
  • Examples of the SBAR Tool (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation), which is a technique used for communication and often used in electronic health records. 

The literature that librarians provide lays the foundation for improving patient safety and contributing to staff empowerment.

At the University of Illinois Chicago, we’ve been involved in an external collaboration with nursing faculty. The NExT Project has provided free continuing education to public health and school nurses since 2014. In 2021, the modules were expanded to include ambulatory care nurses. Nurses can go through the modules created by library and nursing faculty on the evidence-based practice process, which involves how to find evidence, appraise the evidence, translate the evidence, and disseminate what they found. These modules give nurses from workplace settings with limited resources the opportunity to learn about evidence-based practice, exemplifying that searching for and implementing evidence-based practice(s) is possible in any work setting.

Librarians are critical to the success of health care teams. Throughout your career how have librarians helped you?

Annie ‘Nicky’ Nickum currently works as an Information Services and Liaison Librarian and Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago where she supports the College of Nursing and the University of Illinois Hospitals. Her research interests include consumer health literacy amongst nurses and supporting the translation of student health literacy to nursing practice. Before coming to UIC, she worked at the Library of Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota as the Nursing and Biomedical Sciences Librarian. She obtained her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013.

Rebecca Raszewski, MS, AHIP is Associate Professor & Information Services & Liaison Librarian at the Library of the Health Sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago. She has worked with nursing on the Chicago campus since August 2008. Her most recent publications have focused on data management education in graduate nursing programs and nursing faculty’s awareness of information literacy standards. She is involved with the NExT Project, a library and nursing faculty partnership that provides free continuing education on evidence-based practice.

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